Apple To Developers: No Selling HealthKit Data To Advertisers

Developers can, however, hand the data over to medical researchers with a user’s consent.

Apple To Developers: No Selling HealthKit Data To Advertisers
[Image: Flickr user Jason Howie]

When Apple unveiled its HealthKit toolset for app developers at the Worldwide Developer Conference in June, it hinted at a future where everything from our heart rates to our daily footsteps to our sleep time could be tallied and molded into raw data, thanks to iOS 8 and a possible watch. The platform would allow developers like Nike and Jawbone to build new and exciting health-tracking apps, which could be compiled into iOS 8’s Health app.

But Apple seems to understand that in order to get customers to buy into the idea of having their biometric data tracked 24/7, it will have to provide assurances that their private information will be safe. This week, Apple told developers that they won’t be able to sell customer health data to advertisers, at least for now. The Guardian reports that, according to the new rules, developers “must not sell an end-user’s health information collected through the HealthKit APIs to advertising platforms, data brokers or information resellers.” Developers are, however, allowed to share user data with medical researchers as long as they get consent first.

For example, if a user of Health–the consumer-facing iOS 8 app that compiles all your biometric info into a single, Passbook-like hub–has high blood pressure, app makers will not be able to sell that information to an advertiser that might want to sell them blood pressure medication.

It is tricky new territory. But at least it appears that Apple is taking potential privacy concerns seriously. The company is reportedly in talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to discuss some of the possibilities offered by medical apps.

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About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.